This week’s news from our Pale Blue Dot ranges from China’s solar-powered Yutu rover investigates a cube on the Moon’s far side to ‘Quadruple Helix’ structure found in DNA to mysterious dreams people have before they die.
People often have mysterious dreams before they die –Many people experience characteristic dreams and visions in the weeks and days before life ends. It is high time we recognize the importance of such experiences, says one researcher. Several Norwegian researchers agree, reports SciNorway.
How Do You Tell the World That Doomsday Has Arrived? –A new film about a killer comet revives memories of a nail-biting night in The Times newsroom two decades ago, reports Dennis Overbye for The New York Times. “In the new Netflix film “Don’t Look Up,” a pair of astronomers, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, assume this responsibility when they discover that a “planet-killing” comet is headed straight for Earth and must spread the news.”
What if Einstein never existed? –Even without the greatest individual scientist of all, every one of his great scientific advances would still have occurred. Eventually, reports Big Think–“From the speed of light to E = mc² to general relativity and more, no scientist in history has contributed more to human knowledge than Albert Einstein. Yet many others were working on the same sets of problems, and they may have made the same key advances even if Einstein were never present. If Einstein had never existed, however, would science have still advanced to its present state by today?”
Chinese rover investigates ‘cube’ on far side of the moon, reports the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation –“The Yutu-2 caught an image of what seems like a large cubic object on the horizon about 80 meters from its location, said Our Space, a Chinese government science website, citing the rover’s last log on Dec. 3. The solar-powered Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit” in Chinese, will cover the distance of 80 meters in two to three lunar days, according to Our Space, or two to three Earth months. The robotic rover has been operating in the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin since its deployment in January 2019.”
Moon Cube and Mysteries of the Solar System –This week, images taken by China’s lunar rover, Yutu-2, showed a cube-shaped object on the moon’s surface. Did aliens leave an artifact on the moon? Or is it the latest case of mistaken identity around our solar system? reports The New York Times.
Evidence of a Roman crucifixion found in Cambridge, England–“The finding in the village of Fenstanton is the only known example of a Roman crucifixion in the British Isles, and perhaps the best preserved in the world.”
How the Coronavirus Stays One Step Ahead of Us –As long as there are vulnerable populations, a virus will evolve. That’s nature,” reports Megan Scudellari for Nautilus. “But viruses evolve fast. Exceptionally fast. Faster than any other organism on Earth—and the new coronavirus is no exception. Ed Feil, a professor at the University of Bath. “SARS-CoV-2 has experienced roughly the same amount of mutational evolutionary change during the pandemic (proportional to genome size), as humans have since Homo habilis first walked the Earth about 2.5 million years ago,” Feil explained in The Conversation.”
The latest lab science on Omicron’s threat, reports James Gallagher for The BBC –“It’s spreading fast even in places where there are high levels of immunity, either through vaccination or big waves of Covid in the past.”
These Maps Reveal the Profound Progress and Peril of Modern Civilization, reports Singularity Hub –“In Terra Incognita: 100 Maps to Survive the Next 100 Years, we use maps to explain the multi-faceted impacts of our modern civilization. In the process, we reveal the footprint of everything from the melting of the glaciers to extractive mining of rare earths. Maps provide a reminder of the uneven nature of our progress and the fragility of our planet and its ecosystems.”
Humans Didn’t Invent Mathematics, It’s What the World Is Made Of, reports Singularity Hub –“In a new paper, it’s argued that mathematics is an essential component of nature that gives structure to the physical world. Bees in hives produce hexagonal honeycomb. Why?”
Unusual ‘Quadruple Helix’ Structure in DNA May Be Behind Rare Aging Syndrome, reports ScienceAlert –“Scientists first discovered these ‘double-double-helixes’ in living human cells in 2013, and in the years since, these knots have been found in high concentrations in cancerous cells.”
We know how time will end, but not how it started –The mystery around the origin of time’s arrow, reports Paul Davies for iAi –“The arrow of time appears to be pointing in one very specific direction. Natural processes, from rivers flowing downhill, never uphill, to eggs always breaking, never spontaneously reassembling, to cups of coffee always cooling down, show us that direction. Yet the laws of physics that govern the motion of all matter are time-symmetrical: they don’t distinguish between past and future.”
An international team of scientists may have solved a key mystery about the origins of the Earth’s water, after uncovering persuasive new evidence pointing to an unlikely culprit — the Sun, reports NASA Astrobiology. In a new paper published today in the journal Nature Astronomy, a team of researchers from the UK, Australia and America describe how new analysis of an ancient asteroid suggests that extraterrestrial dust grains carried water to Earth as the planet formed.
Scientists Model What Would Happen if a Mini Black Hole Punched Through the Moon, reports Singularity Hub –“According to a theory proposed by Bernard Carr and Stephen Hawking in the 1970s, the conditions just after the Big Bang were so energetic, the matter so tightly packed, that density fluctuations in the primordial soup collapsed into black holes of all sizes.”
The Problem With Earth’s Striking New ‘Black Box’ –A monolithic data storage site and art installation called “Earth’s Black Box” is slated for construction in Australia. Akin to a flight recorder, the device is meant to chronicle Earth’s journey toward environmental destruction, but it likely won’t have much of an impact, reports George Dvorsky for Gizmodo. “The 33-foot-long (10-meter) structure will be built on a remote granite outcrop in western Tasmania, Australia’s ABC News reports.
Virtual Land in the Metaverse Is Selling for Millions of Dollars, reports Singularity Hub –“The trading volume of NFTs reached $10.67 billion in the third quarter of this year, with more people apparently willing to shell out huge sums of money for art that will never actually hang on their walls or adorn their homes in any way. Now there’s a related, equally bizarre item selling for millions of dollars online: virtual land. It’s like real land, sort of, except you’ll never set foot on it because it only exists in the metaverse.
Humans Are Doomed to Go Extinct –-Habitat degradation, low genetic variation and declining fertility are setting Homo sapiens up for collapse, reports Henry Gee for Scientific American. ” The fossil record indicates that Homo sapiens has been around for 315,000 years or so, but for most of that time, the species was rare—so rare, in fact, that it came close to extinction, perhaps more than once. Thus were sown the seeds of humanity’s doom: the current population has grown, very rapidly, from something much smaller.”
Up to Half of Earth’s Water May Come From Solar Wind and Space Dust, reports Singularity Hub –‘Water is vital for life on Earth, and some experts say we should all drink around two liters every day as part of a healthy lifestyle. But beyond the tap, where does our water come from?”
Quantum Simulators Create a Totally New Phase of Matter –One of the first goals of quantum computing has been to recreate bizarre quantum systems that can’t be studied in an ordinary computer. A dark-horse quantum simulator has now done just that,” reports Charlie Wood for Quanta.
Will We Ever Get Rid of COVID-19? –No matter how much we’d like to eradicate SARS-CoV-2, it may be better to settle for other forms of control, reports Quanta.
How the Omicron Variant Got So Many Scary Mutations So Quickly –The numerous changes in the coronavirus’s spike protein could have arisen in an isolated population or an immunocompromised person—or animals, reports Sarah Wild for Scientific American.
Pompeii’s Ruins to Be Reconstructed by Robot –An ambitious project is underway to develop a robot with enough smarts, strength and sensitivity to restore fragmented archaeological remains, reports Jen Pinkowski for Scientific American.
Anthrax arms race helped Europeans evolve against disease –“New research from the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine has revealed how humans evolved greater resistance against anthrax multiple times during history: when they developed a diet of more ruminants, and when agricultural practices took hold,” reports Cornell University.